WILLIAMSTOWN -- New Hope Methodist Church will host an interfaith service for "mental illness recovery and understanding" on Sunday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. This informal 45-minute service will be led by pastor Kim Kie.
"The Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative, had their meeting and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) presented about mental illness awareness and mentioned that October is the month faith communities often focus on it," said Kie. "Mark Rondeau and the others at the Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative thought it might be nice to bring all the congregations in Northern Berkshire together to do this. He had the idea that it would be nice to have an interfaith gathering, rather than each church just doing their own observance. We thought after the holidays would be good, hence the January service."
Rondeau, the co-founder of the interfaith group that runs the Friendship Center Food Pantry in North Adams, was the main driver behind the event.
"We had a speaker last month from NAMI, Kathy Quinn, and she suggested observing Mental Illness Awareness Week in October," said Rondeau. "October was too soon, but we got the inspiration from her. I just pushed on it because I thought it had been a good thing to do."
The service itself will be open to the public, and Kie does not expect it to run long.
"It'll be fairly brief service, probably around 45 minutes or so," she said. "Some words of welcome, introduction of some people from NAMI and the resources they have, and then sharing of some families and their own journeys with mental illness. We'll have readings from sacred scriptures of the different faith traditions and/or poetry, with candles for each one and a pause of silence for people to reflect on what they are hearing. There will be a chance for people to come light a candle and offer a spoken or silent prayer of their own, and we'll have someone playing piano as well, so it won't just be people's voices."
The candle-lighting is taken from the NAMI packet of service suggestions.
"We're using materials that have been used nationally as well as adding our own stuff," said Kie. "So from the national resource, the candle-lighting service has candles of truth, healing, understanding, hope, thankfulness, faith and love. So these are keywords, and each candle represents something. We're having a reading to go with each one. We're using part of their materials as well as some of their own. There will be scripture, but it's to educate faith communities about mental illness, and to let families know that faith communities are here to be supportive of their journeys as well."
Especially given recent current events, Rondeau felt that the time was right for this service.
"Since the Newtown thing, mental illness has taken a front-burner position, and this coincides with that interest too," he said. "It has always seemed to me that mental illness is an important issue. I've known people in my life who had it, and there's a stigma about it. I was looking for something we could do that would be more faith-based rather than a service project. This seemed a great opportunity to bring the clergy and lay-people together to provide something for the community."
For Pastor Kie, it will be her first interfaith service for mental illness. She has previously led interfaith services or offered prayers for mental illness, but not as a separate service.
"We just want to let people know we're here to support everyone," said Kie. "Our call in all of our faith traditions is in reconciling people to communities, so this helps them relate to a larger community. We want to let them know that they are welcome and loved. It's not specifically focused on any one of the faith traditions. That's why we thought hosting at New Hope might work well, because the storefront might be more comfortable for those who aren't as comfortable in houses of worship."
New Hope Church is at the corner of Main and Water streets. For additional information, contact Mark Rondeau at 413-664-0130.